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Why retail success depends on clean customer address data

Whether providing goods or direct mail, wrong addresses are a high-cost, no-reward expense retailers must avoid, explains Barley Laing, the UK MD at Melissa

The pivot to online shopping during the pandemic has opened a valuable revenue stream for many retailers. However, to stay competitive in this increasingly online era, retailers must take a step back and consider all aspects of how they can ensure success via this channel. It is imperative to understand the vital role of clean customer contact data, particularly address data, to help drive sales, reduce costs, and deliver a standout customer experience. Retailers face many challenges that can be tied directly to bad address data. Whether providing goods or direct mail, wrong addresses are a high-cost, no-reward expense retailers must avoid.

Fast and efficient delivery = standout customer service + loyalty

Many retailers – particularly those in apparel – now offer free delivery, as well as a free collection and return service. It has never been more critical to have accurate customer contact data, particularly address data. Such data ensures fast and efficient product delivery, omnichannel marketing communications, and pick up of products for return. It will also help retailers avoid the costly return to sender scenario.

If you are an e-commerce-only retailer, your biggest cost is likely delivery, so it is vital to get it right. Those who use geocodes that provide rooftop latitude and longitude location coordinates based on accurate address data will further improve logistics and delivery, resulting in reduced shipping costs. Overall, accurate address data will help optimise the customer experience, encouraging them to remain customers for the long term, whilst aiding retailers in their efforts to compete with the likes of Amazon.

It is worth pointing out that many retailers outsource their delivery or logistics, leaving those agents to sort out address issues. This can create a problem in that delivery is an intrinsic part of how customers view the brand. They will often associate their delivery experience directly with the brand they bought from rather than the last mile van company that transports the item. Logistics companies may not have the best data available to them and use many sub-contractors in the supply chain to the front door. Therefore, retailers must ask themselves if they really want to leave this very important function to chance, rather than ensuring it is optimised at low cost, and by doing so own the complete click to drop off customer experience.

Insight to drive the next sale

Clean customer contact data can be effectively analysed to improve secondary sales. For example, an accurate postal address can be used to obtain valuable customer demographic data such as household income, marital status of the residents, whether the property is owner occupied, and if children are resident. Once this data is at hand, you can segment it by the different audience groups and tailor content and outreach campaigns to their preferences, maximising sales. Additionally, with this information, you can define your best customers’ unique attributes, predict likely future buying behaviour, and identify prospects most like your best customers. And do not forget that such data can also inform effective new product development.

Avoid fraud with ID verification

If you can confidently match an individual to a specific address at the point of sale you help reduce the possibility of costly fraudulent activity, which has been on the rise since the start of the pandemic. It is possible to effectively verify an individual with an address by having access to billions of consumer records in real time from trusted entities, such as government agencies, credit agencies, and utility companies. Taking this approach to verification is not only important if you sell high value items, but even lower cost ones, as the fee for such services decrease at a time when fraud continues to flourish. Also, by having access to such data, you can correct and enrich your existing customer contact details to confirm its accuracy and fill any gaps, respectively.

Address autocomplete for accuracy

Using an address autocomplete service fosters accurate customer data collection. Doing so, in as frictionless a manner as possible, speeds up the checkout process and encourages close of the sale. These tools automatically reveal a suggested correct version of the address as the customer fills out an online contact form, enabling them to select one that is not only accurate but easily recognised and correctly formatted for their country location. An autocomplete service also prevents mistakes caused by ‘fat finger syndrome’ as it reduces the number of keystrokes required by up to 70%.

Tools like this are essential when 91 %of businesses have common data quality problems with customer data degrading at two per cent each month without regular intervention. Also, 20% of addresses entered online contain errors such as spelling mistakes, wrong house numbers, and incorrect postcodes; this is primarily due to people providing their data via small mobile screens.

In an increasingly competitive online world, it has never been more critical for retailers to have accurate customer address data. Those that make clean and accurate address data a priority can look forward to a prosperous 2021.

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